Updated: Oct 25
When the bright lights shine down upon Mikey Musumeci, it would appear that his undeniable talent and unbridled spirit are unwavering. ONE Championship's flyweight submission grappling king has shown confidence in his skills, and it has brought him both fame and fortune.
But the money and titles are not what drives the talented 26-year-old. After coming forward that he has suffered bouts with depression, the conquering hero wants to use his platform to inspire others who are also fighting their own demons.
"For myself, with titles, it's not about winning titles anymore. What it's about is inspiring and helping people, having an impact on others so that they can overcome whatever obstacles they have in life," Musumeci told ONE.
"So now that I'm in the position I'm in, I have a responsibility not only to perform and compete but also to share my stories of life and overcoming the things that I have [faced]. And I want to help people; it gives me a purpose to live."
On top of the submission grappling mountain, it would be challenging to imagine Musumeci suffering from depression. The world is his oyster.
However, depression does not discriminate and affects people from all walks of life, no matter how glossy the appearance may be from the outside.
"Something I've learned from having depression is when you're in that state. Nothing makes you feel better – food, money, nothing. Even food. I love pizza and pasta. I didn't even like pizza and pasta when I was depressed. The only thing that made me feel better was when I helped people, when I made somebody smile, when I made someone's day better," Musumeci described.
"That gave me a purpose to keep living. I'm like, 'Okay, I feel horrible, but at least the people around me are benefiting from them.' So I feel like that gives me a purpose to live another day."
After his last win at ONE Fight Night 10 as part of ONE's U.S. debut, Musumeci took the time to talk about his bout with depression in front of a sold-out audience.
Although he was talking to a raucous crowd, his goal was not to reach the entire audience watching him compete. If he only reaches one person who needs to hear his message, he is satisfied because change begins with one person.
Following the win, he knows his words were felt across the globe.
"I don't want anyone to feel bad for me or anything like that. I don't really care about that. All I care about is showing someone that's battling depression that if you are struggling, you're having a hard time – I went through it also, and you're not alone, and you could overcome it also," the New Jersey native said.
"I've gotten thousands of messages. I love helping people. It gives me a purpose to live. I think that's a huge responsibility I have in my position to help and inspire people. I'm blessed with this opportunity. I'm so blessed that I'm in the position I'm in, and I can potentially help people, impact them, and make their lives better."
Being in his position has also given Musumeci a perspective on his past. It allows him to drive a more targeted message to the youth who look up to him for his martial arts accomplishments.
"Darth Rigatoni" said that he would tell his younger self not to focus on the medals and titles but instead on the process itself. Enjoy life and help people.
Musumeci's position as a global figure in the world of martial arts has allowed him to develop communication skills he did not have growing up. And his message to his younger self also serves as an inspiring message to the next generation.
"I didn't have very good social skills probably at that time. So I would definitely change his perspective to the Mikey now that's very warm and open with people," Musumeci said.
"When you're younger, you feel bitter towards people. And you don't know that there are many good people in this world. So as you get older, you experience and find good people."
"So I would tell Mikey, 'There are good people in this world. Open your heart to them. Don't close your heart.'"